LOADING ZONES: DOT is Finally Taking Back Some Streets From Car Storage!

This sign is no more. Photo: Kings County Politics
This sign is no more. Photo: Kings County Politics

It’s one small step for a block, one giant leap for street safety.

The city has begun an unheralded — but monumental — pilot program to reduce the scourge and danger of double-parked delivery trucks by eliminating car storage along a dozen residential strips in all five boroughs, a move that finally addresses the explosion in FedEx and UPS deliveries over the past two decades and the rise of app-based car services in the outer boroughs.

The pilot program also has one side benefit: It may — may — start breaking the culture of city policies geared towards the car-owning minority.

“The loading zones will work to provide curb space during daytime and evening hours to allow for the pick-up and drop-off of passengers as well as loading and unloading of goods – helping to more efficiently utilize curb space and reduce the number of double parked cars,” said DOT spokeswoman Alana Morales. 

DOT kicked off its new so-called Residential Loading Zone Evaluation earlier this month by forbidding private cars from parking along some blocks Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. DOT said it selected 12 locations for the pilot, focusing on narrow one or two-way streets with bike infrastructure and/or a bus route.

The agency didn’t release details to the media, but Kings County Politics broke the story after some residents of Fort Greene complained that they had gotten tickets for parking in one of the new zones: Greene Avenue from Cumberland Street to Classon Avenue last week. The website’s story focused on car owners who were upset by the new plan rather than its sheer audacity and potential to fix other residents’ longstanding problem.

The daily onslaught of deliveries from companies like FedEx, UPS, Fresh Direct, and Amazon, plus hundreds of thousands of more cab trips that simply were not happening five years ago, has served as an impediment to Mayor de Blasio’s signature Vision Zero initiative — it creates more traffic on local streets and increases the hazards for pedestrians and cyclists. There are whole Twitter accounts dedicated to documenting UPS and FedEx trucks in bike lanes.

Blocking a roadway can have deadly consequences — Madison Lyden was forced out of the Central Park West bike lane because of a parked livery car, and into the path of a private sanitation worker who hit and killed her last summer.

And it’s often so bad that last October, Manhattan’s Community Board 7 even asked DOT to repurpose some parking spots to create delivery zones along Central Park West and West End Avenue. That board has even flirted with further, ground-breaking no-parking requests, such as demanding the mayor stop simply giving away free on-street parking.

But DOT declined to do much about it, even as its hard-fought painted bike lanes were constantly being parked on. Meanwhile, the Department of Finance’s Stipulated Fine Program reduces fines for violations such as parking in a bike or bus lane — a program that ends up encouraging illegal parking and also costing the city tens of millions of dollars in fines handed out to delivery companies, Streetsblog previously reported.

Tickets will still likely be reduced in price, but now truckers will be less likely to double-park or block roadways and bike lanes, thanks to the new “no parking” zones in the 12 residential communities. Leaders along one of those strips, West End Avenue from 79th to 95th streets, have been championing more loading zones for at least a year — and consider the new plan a major win.

“It’ll be great. Loading zones increase safety, ease traffic congestion, and make streets more manageable,” said Community Board 7 Transportation Committee co-chairman Howard Yaruss. “We want loading zones all over but we definitely want them there.”

Some safe-street advocates like Yaruss and others may cheer the new loading zones, but others who still enjoy and benefit from the city’s yet-to-be-broken car culture will hue and cry over the loss of a few parking spots just like they have before.

Not all leaders are like Yaruss. Local pols and business leaders in Forest Hills opposed a similar city plan to expand loading zones on Austin Street in order to ease congestion because they claimed it would make finding a parking spot harder. As a result, the roadway remains a congested, clogged mess that is bad for business and dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. There have been 50 crashes just this year on Austin Street, causing injuries to five pedestrians.

And another controversial DOT initiative called “clear curbs” to help speed up buses along busy Fulton Street in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill by replacing some curbside parking spots with a bus lane during peak hours was met with backlash from locals, plus Fort Greene Council Member Laurie Cumbo — who even called for it to be shut down during the afternoon.

Cumbo said in 2017 that car parking was more important than the safety or ensuring bus riders get to where they’re going as fast as possible: “The challenge with the Department of Transportation’s proposal to implement a ‘buses only’ lane along Fulton Street between Grand and Lafayette avenues is the removal of much-needed parking for residents and small businesses,” she posted on social media, Streetsblog reported.

And on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, the city capitulated to a car-loving community after some politicians and local businesses complained without evidence that the loss of parking as part of the same “clear curbs” program was hurting their bottom lines.

But streets are for the public, not for the mere 27 percent of New Yorkers who commute to work via their cars — the majority use public transportation, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Specifically in Manhattan, just eight percent of residents drive to work, and car ownership is minuscule. Most private cars are simply stored for days on end in the public right of way, the DOT has found

DOT says it notified all affected community boards and elected officials in each of the five boroughs before implementation of the loading zone pilot. But some residents unfamiliar with the new program had already gotten their cars booted and were slapped with $185 tickets for parking Greene Avenue, according to Kings County Politics.

The city booted some cars parked in the new no-parking area on Greene Avenue as part of a new citywide residential loading zone pilot program.
The city booted some cars parked in the new no-parking area on Greene Avenue as part of a new citywide residential loading zone pilot program. Photo: Kings County Politcs

And over on Manhattan Avenue near Ainslie Street on Wednesday afternoon, Streetsblog spotted two cars parked in “no-parking” zones where the pilot had already gone into effect. They both had tickets on their dashboards.

no parking wburg
A car with a ticket on it on Manhattan Avenue near Ainslie Street. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Streetsblog reached out to several transportation experts, but none had heard about the city’s pilot program. A search of Streetsblog’s outgoing email server discovered that reporters had asked DOT about its plans for residential loading zones roughly once a month since rumors of a plan started circulating in July, 2018. Yet the agency declined to inform Streetsblog in advance of this revolutionary pilot program, perhaps anticipating a backlash by the car-owning minority about the shift in priorities over the public roadway — from car storers to all other users.

DOT says it will evaluate the effectiveness of the loading zones over the next year.

Here’s where the pilot program is in effect

Brooklyn

Greene Avenue from Cumberland Street to Classon Avenue in Fort Greene: about 13 blocks

Bergen Street from New York Avenue to Sixth Avenue in Crown Heights/Prospect Heights: about nine blocks 

Manhattan Avenue from Ainslie Street to Bayard Street in Williamsburg/Greenpoint: about nine blocks 

Manhattan 

W. 15th Street from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue in Chelsea: two avenues 

W. 16th Street from Ninth Avenue to Sixth Avenue in Chelsea: three avenues 

West End Avenue from W. 79th Street to W. 95th Street in the Upper West Side: 16 blocks 

The Bronx

Gerard Avenue from E. 153rd Street to E. 167th Street in South Bronx: 14 blocks 

Tremont Avenue from Morris Avenue to Sedgwick Avenue in Morris Heights: about 10 blocks 

Queens

74th Street from 37th Avenue to 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights: five avenues 

108th Street from 52nd Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue in Corona: about 11 blocks 

Staten Island

Richmond Terrace from Jersey Street to Westervelt Avenue in St. George 

St. Marks Place from Fort Place to Wall Street in St. George 

  • 1soReal

    While it may used for that purpose, it is not specifically a loading zone. “Loading zone” would be for commercial vehicles only. The goals here is to keep the parking lane clear for all brief curbside uses, eliminating the need to double park. Any vehicle can use the space like uber/lyft to pick up/drop off passengers, or private owed cars too.
    No parking = you may stop to load/ unload people or goods.

  • kevd

    Church Ave. please.

  • 6SJ7

    A sign with a clearer description of the rule, something like:

    Vehicle Loading & Unloading Only
    8am – 6pm
    Monday – Friday

    ‘Vehicle’ makes it clearer that trucks and passenger vehicles are allowed to use the designated spaces.

  • MatthewEH

    Trucks would still have to deliver items to the Amazon Hubs, UPS Access Points, etc. It’s not as though the items sent for pickup there teleport into place.

    Granted it might be more efficient for the drivers to deliver to one collection point than many, and shave off some of the time their trucks will need to be parked. It wouldn’t eliminate it, though, not by any means.

  • Then just make a new sign? “Loading and passenger drop offs”

  • mike

    There is no paid parking option in most neighborhoods. The one paid parking lot in my neighborhood is ironically closed at night. Thats why people end up parking at no standing signs and your precious hydrants.

    Beware though, you guys try to eliminate every parking spot in the city and it will backfire. Push hard enough and you just might end up with a mayor (and therefore DOT) that is always on the side of the drivers.

  • mike

    You know what would tackle the congestion problem? Elimiate Lyft and Uber. Because having a 100,000 extra cars a day on the road can cause some major congestion. Call a car service or take a yellow cab if you need someone to drive you. Not everything needs to be done by phone. That would help with the parking (since less cars overall) and the congestion (less cars) and the pollution (did I mention less cars?).

  • William

    Why would anyone have any more right to a spot near their house than they have a right to an apartment near their job?

  • neroden

    “Loading zone” doesn’t necessarily need to be commercial-only. In the city I live in, there are “loading zones” (which include passenger pickup/dropoff) and “truck loading zone commercial vehicle only” (which don’t)

  • neroden

    Only 27% of the voters in NYC even own cars. You could ban private cars entirely and win the mayoral election in NYC.

  • mike

    Voters have families who would also be inconvenienced and pissed off by a car ban. For example, my mom doesn’t even have a license but she always votes. Car ban = I can’t visit as often…. well I can, because garage but others can’t.
    Thus you would alienate a lot more than 27% of the voters. Also, those 27% would support the opponent of whoever was responsible for the ban. So that person would really only need 24% support on other issues to win an election. That’s not too difficult.
    And that’s not even getting into the economics of what would happen if private car ownership was banned in NYC. Property values would tank as many well of people would move away. Propert values in long island and NJ would probably skyrocket as people try to hang on to their Manhattan jobs.
    Funny thing about cars… for many it is both a necessity and a luxury.

  • my mom doesn’t even have a license but she always votes. Car ban = I can’t visit as often

    You can visit whenever you want, courtesy of our City’s lovely subway and buses.

    And that’s not even getting into the economics of what would happen if private car ownership was banned in NYC. Property values would tank as many well of[f] people would move away.

    We would certainly hope to induce car-owners to move away, as those people would be replaced by equally well-off people who desire an actual urban lifestyle. And, as more of these replacements took place, the resulting hightened quality of life in the City would attract ever more such people, thereby keeping property values in the upper end of the real estate market very high.

    Anyway, a full Citywide ban on cars is just a thought experiment; even the most rabid car-haters wouldn’t endorse that particular policy. (And I speak as someone who defers to no one in the rabid hatred of cars.) An outright ban should be in place in the two main business districts of Manhattan, with a ban on street parking and a limitation on vehicle size sufficing for other Manhattan sections and for the other three significant boroughs.

    These policies would cause many outer-borough (with apolgies to Adeez) residents to decide that keeping a car is not feasible. And the resultant decrease in the amount of cars, combined with the surge in people who need to use public transit, would necessitate the installation of busways on major arterials, and the creation of many new bus lines. (Unfortunately, we can be sure that we’ll never get new subway lines in Queens or Brooklyn.)

    While cars and trucks have legitimate uses (shipping and delivery; the hauling of tools and gear; the administration of essential and emergency City services), the individual passenger car is fundamentally antithetical to the urban setting — doubly so its monstrous cousin, the SUV. Even if individuals’ personal autos are to some degree tolerated in recognition of a need that exists for a tiny portion of the population, all public policy should be geared towards discouraging their use and encouraging the use of alternatives.

    The bottom line is that every accommodation to drivers amounts to an obstacle to the betterment of our urban environment. Conversely, every improvement to our City requires the imposition of limitations upon drivers. The advancement of our civilisation depends upon leaders of our great cities having the good sense to say to drivers loudly and clearly: “You are the problem.”

  • mike

    How long does it take you to go from south Brooklyn to the bronx? By car I can do it in less than an hour. By train it is easily twice that. This is why people have cars.

    You paint a nice picture of a public transportation utopia, but you picked one of the largest cities in the world to do this in. Public transnation is simply too slow due to the distance involved unless you create some sort of express bus / train that will race from one end of NYC to another in record time. Think bullet train (or bus) but for NYC. That would be really good.

    And I am really trying to figure out where these high earning individuals who dont wish to own cars will come from. My neighborhood is terrible to park in and drive in. Despite that I have watched the number of high end sports cars in my area easily double the last few years. So based on my observations, people who love cars are moving in or at least staying and enjoying their toys.
    And rich people on the west coast love their cars too…

  • Crooked Hillary

    This was a disgusting effort to penalize hardworking New Yorkers and fine them into submission. These are residential neighborhoods for goodness sake! Glad to see that the city went back on this crap for Green Ave and Bergen Street. What a disgrace!

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